Walk to the Lakes
We have a glimpse of Home Hospital on our walk to the lakes. This elegant and well-arranged building is acknowledged to be the best constructed and best adapted in America. We will see the hospital in greater detail later in the tour. A little further we have a glimpse of a lake and two old soldiers enjoying the view. We see the edge of a landscape garden with nature's choicest flowers of beauty and fragrance to delight the eye and charm the senses. Looking back on our path, we have a glimpse of the conservatory. Fellow visitors pass by and proclaim that we are in a beautiful place, different from any they have ever seen.
The magnificent conservatory is named in honor of Major-General John H. Martindale, one of the Board of Managers. Inside the conservatory are fine palms, which give it a splendid tropical effect. An unusual glass dome adjoins the conservatory and inside is a fine fountain named the Water Waifs. Outside the conservatory, we see the Butterfly Mound. We have a glimpse of rare water lilies and soon we are surrounded by aquatic gardens. Three large ponds are heated to a temperature of 80 degrees using steam lines from the conservatory. We ascend a hill to the scenic overview of the flower garden featuring the Union Mound. Originally this area was a quarry from which the stone used in the construction of some of the buildings was taken. Army Chaplain Thomas B. Van Horn initially laid out the grounds. Mr. Frank Mundt, a florist and gardener from Germany, started growing vines in the crevices in 1868. Mr. Mundt constructed a temporary greenhouse. Mr. C.B. Davis, an architect, was appointed to lay out walks, flower plots, and otherwise develop the grounds. The credit for the design and development of the grounds in their present perfection is due to Mr. Charles Beck, who has had charge of the landscape work since 1875. The early display was modest. The 1880 display featured the floral mound. You can rest and enjoy the view in a rustic arbor at the top of the hill. The first of three natural springs is nearby and you can join other visitors for a refreshing drink of spring water if you like.
The Grotto begins to reveal itself in all its grandeur as we descend through a stone archway. You notice the luxuriant foliage and a waterfall at the bottom of the steps. A second drinking spring is nearby. You will notice the rockwork is covered with creeping vines. Rustic seats are conveniently placed for your rest and pleasure. It is not uncommon to find a romantic couple enjoying a quiet moment alone. We exit the Grotto using a stone stairway and see another view of the garden and a battery. We follow winding walks past a fountain and shaded benches to the Middle Lake.
The Middle Lake
The boat dock is full of excitement as visitors anticipate a boat ride on the McPherson. The Central Branch currently has seven boats and we see old soldiers riding in a paddleboat. It is nice to see the defenders of our Nation enjoying their home. Some old soldiers are sitting on the bank enjoying the view. A miniature man-of-war named the Garfield in honor of Major General James Garfield is anchored in the middle of the lake. During the Civil War, the Garfield was attached to the Cumberland. When the Rebels ran it down with the Merrimac, the survivors were taken ashore on the Garfield. It was cut down to its present proportions to appear in a parade in 1881 at the inauguration of General Garfield as the twentieth President of the United States. It was given to the Central Branch 6 months later after President Garfield died from an assassin's bullet.
We have alligators in one of our ponds adjacent to the Grotto near the east entrance. We have a small indoor nursery for baby alligators. The aviary is located at the Lower Lake and can be reached by following one of the beautiful winding walks and ascending and descending several stone stairways. The Deer Park is beyond the aviary. We have 50 to 60 deer, which have been so domesticated that they are quite tame and can be petted. Some fine specimens of elk may also be seen here. Our menagerie includes a great bear and two smaller bears which have been taught by their keeper to perform many laughable antics. There is also a wolf, cunning foxes, and a number of sly raccoons. We also have families of rabbits, pigeons, and antelopes in enclosures. We stroll from the lake and deer park toward the main campus.